The Purpose of Purpose-Driven Marketing

Why? Because! Consumers Care About The Cause!


For brands navigating the current digital landscape, the bar has been raised. The new generation of consumers are vocal about their higher standards when it comes to finding companies they’ll support. In the eyes of these audiences, it’s no longer enough for brands to “be good” in terms of business practices, brand identity or product quality. They demand that companies “do good” in the world by supporting causes that are important to them. In the marketing world, the practice of companies supporting social causes or charitable organizations is often referred to as Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) or purpose-driven marketing.

It may seem counterintuitive for a company to give away their profit, but if it’s for a good cause, it’s probably worth it in the long-run. According to a CSR study by Cone Communications, nearly 80% of Americans believe companies should support (via monetary donations or through long-term partnerships) social issues including human rights, environmental sustainability, and equal labor standards. Millennials, currently the fastest-growing and most powerful group of consumers, are unapologetically adamant about purpose-driven marketing. Their younger counterpart, Gen-Z, is not far behind them.

…it’s no longer enough for brands to ‘be good’ in terms of business practices, brand identity or product quality. (Consumers) demand that companies ‘do good’ in the world.”

Members of these tech-savvy audiences grew up bombarded by traditional marketing messaging on tv, online and just about everywhere else they look. They’re extremely skeptical, and can easily spot inauthenticity in traditional brand messaging. Furthermore, this group will do their own research to make sure brands claiming to support a cause are actually following through. If they find evidence that companies aren’t being transparent, these consumers will not only find a more charitable brand to support, they often tell their own audiences about any perceived deception to discourage them from supporting a dishonest brand.

Research shows that millennials are putting their money where their mouths are when it comes to CSR. In the last 5 years, 9 out of 10 millennials said they’d make personal sacrifices to support causes that are important to them, according to a Berkeley study. This could mean switching to a brand that prides itself on purpose-driven marketing tactics, paying more for products from brands that support their causes, or refusing to work at companies that don’t use CSR, even if that means they’ll earn less money.

One of the best-known modern examples of CSR success is TOMS. The shoe company built their identity around social responsibility and environmental sustainability. Consumers feel good about supporting the brand because they know with each pair they purchase, someone in need will receive their own pair of responsibly-sourced shoes (or other necessary items such as eyeglasses). The company built a community of consumers that feel like they can make a difference in the world, even with one purchase.

For brands looking to resonate with these cause-interested consumers, transparency and authenticity are crucial. Take a look at what your audience is saying in the social media space. What are they passionate about? Find timely opportunities to advocate for causes, such as providing aid in a national crisis or supporting nonprofits that align with your brand’s identity. What if your audience starts commenting on your feed questioning your ethics or practices? Your best bet is to be honest. Tell your audience the “real real”. If that means admitting a mistake and pledging to do better, your audience will appreciate that more than a dry, corporate response that dodges the truth.

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